Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

Aphids & Hawkweeds

September 12, 2021

Prompted by Neil’s observations on Skye, I went looking for a couple of aphid species here on Raasay. I had to walk all of 200 metres from my front gate to find both:

Yarrow Aphid (Macrosiphoniella millefolii) on Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) The pink ones are males.
Large Knapweed Aphids (Uroleucon jaceae) on Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) The black cauda (“tails”) and tibiae (“calves”) distinguish it from Uroleucon jaceicola

My second 2021 batch of Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens has been determined and it turns out that I had collected lots of the locally common H. triviale (Common Hawkweed) and H. shoolbredii (Shoolbred’s Hawkweed). At least the distribution maps for these are filling out, with these two species accounting for three new 10 km square records this year.

However, I also found H. strictiforme (Strict Hawkweed) near Flodigarry, only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county and Neil took me to see a plant that he found last year galled by the cynipid wasp Aulacidea hiercii. This turns out to be H. subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed), also only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county.

Aulacidea hiercii galls on Hieracium subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed)

Aquatics & Caterpillars

September 10, 2021

A sub-group of Skye Botany Group went to Loch Connan and Loch Niarsco, principally to look for Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed), which had been recorded in the NCC Loch Survey in 1989 but not since in the 10 km square NG34. We succeeded in Loch Connan, but not in Loch Niarsco:

Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed)

We found Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed) at an old site in Loch Niarsco and also this unusual looking Sparganium that is probably the S. emersum x S. angustifolium hybrid, Sparganium x diversifolium, though a specimen has been sent for expert determination. This would be new to VC104. Later: Determined as most likely diminutive S. emersum – though there was a big patch like this. Disappointing.

On the shore I spotted some leaf mines on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which Seth determined as being caused by Phytomyza calthophila. This was confirmed by the national scheme recorder as a first for the Inner Hebrides.

And, for something different, recent moth larvae from the garden:

From the top: Angle Shades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Brimstone Moth and Knot Grass

Bugs

August 13, 2021

In early June I took a piece of Prunus padus (Bird Cherry) that had some leaves tied together with silk in the hope of rearing a moth form the larva responsible. So far no moth has emerged, but a few days ago I found this nymph in the pot, which is Anthocoris sp., very probably A. nemorum (Common Flowerbug), though bright red is unusual.

Anthocoris nemorum nymph

A quick sweep with a net along the shore near the house a couple of days ago produced a number of different bugs, four of which I have identified:

The Philaenus spumarius is an unusual colour form and I have been baffled by the variation in this species before. I am grateful to Petro for sorting out the Lygus – a difficult group.

The Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache) at the top of the shore is heavily galled; the leaves are rolled and some bracteoles are also galled by large numbers of this waxy green aphid:

Hayhurstia atriplicis

Two Days in July

July 8, 2021

On Tuesday I visited Phil at Drumfearn who is managing his croft for wildlife. He has changed areas of Molinia into havens for a large variety of plants, invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates. This has been achieved largely by natural regeneration plus native tree and shrub planting from locally-sourced material.

There were lots of Greater Butterfly-orchids (Platanthera chlorantha) and I saw my first Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) of the year. He showed me where Galeopsis speciosa (Large-flowered Hemp-nettle) had emerged from disturbed ground a few years back and there were quite a few specimens of Malva moschata (Musk-mallow), both pretty rare on Skye.

Afterwards, I walked the southern shore of Loch Eishort from Drumfearn to where the Abhainn Ceann Loch Eiseoirt feeds the loch in the east. Much of this is in a tetrad (NG61T) that did not get well covered in the Atlas 2020 recording but it is quite rich botanically and I increased the vascular plant taxon count from 131 to 184. I found this bug, which is not rare but was new to me:

Neolygus contaminatus

Then yesterday, half a dozen of us went to inspect Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) on Raasay. The main site we visited had over 1000 plants and another known site still had about 10 – not too different from when I last checked these two sites in 2008. Nick and Seth each discovered new sites not far away and are now inspired to look for them on Skye. This was a particularly large specimen:

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue)

We also found two different Plume Moths, Thyme Plume and Twin-spot Plume, Satyr Pug and a micromoth that is Bryotropha sp., a Gelechid. Later: B. boreella (Mountain Groundling) Not the greatest moth pictures, but for the record:

Early July

July 4, 2021

I have made a start in Portree on recording for the Urban Flora of Scotland project. Last week I surveyed one of the five 1 km squares that Portree spreads into. In the process I made a number of new tetrad records, so that cheered me up when I was wondering whether daisies were frequent or occasional. One was Petrosedum (previously Sedum) forsterianum (Rock Stonecrop) growing on top of a cemetery wall:

Petrosedum forsterianum

whilst others included Blysmus rufus (Saltmarsh Flat-sedge) and Puccinellia maritima (Common Saltmarsh-grass) on the shore below houses.

Away from the urban fringe I went looking for leaf mines on Sea Aster (Tripolium pannonicum, these days) hoping for the moth Bucculatrix maritima which would be new to VC104. Instead, I found fly mines which are made by Chromatomyia asteris – also new to the vice-county.

I have found a couple of small but colourful bugs on nettles in the past few days, Eupteryx urticae and Eupteryx aurata, the former having very few records this far north, but I suspect it is seriously under-recorded.

Near home I swept a small moth off a stand of Carex remota (Remote Sedge). It is an elachistid, perhaps Elachista humilis, which would be new to VC104. There is a single plant of Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hair-grass) amongst the sedge, which is good as this is the food plant for E. humilis.

Elachista humilis maybe

Mid-May

May 23, 2021

It is still cold so plants are late in flowering and insects on the wing are few in number much of the time. However, it has still been possible to find interesting things…..

A single leaf of Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens) from Gualann na Leac on Raasay had a gall and leaf spots.

Dryas gall and leafspot

The leafspots are caused by the fungus Isothea rhytismoides but the gall causer is less certain. Following the key on Plant Parasites of Europe leads one to the chytrid Synchytrium cupulatum but a paper on nematode infections of Dryas in Perthshire has some similar looking galls caused by nematodes:

Nematode galls on Dryas

I shall have to go and get the leaf and dig into the gall.

New 10 km square records have been made for Hedera hibernica (Atlantic Ivy), Hyacinthoides x massartiana (Hybrid Bluebell), Prunus avium (Wild Cherry or Gean) and, by David H, Scutellaria galericulata (Skullcap).

I seem to have an aphids day yesterday. Following a lead from Murdo of HBRG I went to check for aphids on Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose). He had found the aphid Ceruraphis eriophor at Strathpeffer and noticed that there was only one dot on the NBN Atlas for this species. I have often registered that on Skye V. opulus is infested with aphids and indeed the first plant I looked at had these on it (awaiting final confirmation). Later: Confirmed

Ceruraphis eriophor on Viburnum opulus

Meanwhile, Neil had spotted some clumping of leaves on Acer platanoides (Norway Maple) in a garden at Dunan.

I suspect that this is caused by maple leaf-nest aphid Mimeuria ulmiphila, a taxon that appears on NBN but with no records. Someone is going to have to knock on the door and say “Please can we get a ladder to look at your rare aphids?”. Hope that goes well.

Elsewhere, this leaf spot on Epilobium montanum (Broad-leaved Willowherb) appears to be Venturia maculiformis which is probably common but if so, very under-recorded.

Venturia maculiformis on Epilobium montanum

I have converted my moth trap so that it can be battery-operated.

Moth trap at Brae, Raasay

Its first outing at Brae produced several moths I haven’t seen yet this year at home such as Early Thorn:

Early Thorn

Without the aid of a trap, I found a nice Scalloped Hook-tip at Fearns:

Scalloped Hook=tip

Dance Flies and Missing Moths

May 5, 2021

On Skye last week I spotted some impressive flies which turn out to be Empis borealis, a species of Dance Fly or Dagger Fly. Thanks to Tony and Seth for i.d. This particular species of fly exhibits sex-role reversal in its mating process, with female flies aggregating in swarms to compete for male choice. Female fly swarms change their flying behaviour in the presence of males, who present nuptial gifts to females before mating. The name Dagger Fly comes from the long downward-pointing probosis used for spearing other insects.

Empis borealis

Prior to this year Pammene giganteana (Early Oak Piercer) was known in Scotland from just four VC’s and a handful of records. However, it is known that it comes to lures for Grapholita molesta (MOL), Grapholita lobarzewskii (SKI) and Grapholita funebrana (FUN).  Use of these lures has resulted in many new records in England and southern Scotland.

The larvae feed on spongy oak galls but oak trees are scarce on Raasay. There are a few near Eyre and some near Dun Borodale and in both places I have had a go with a MOL lure. The weather has been irritatingly cold, only reaching 6 or 7 C most days – the absolute minimum for these micromoths to fly, and I have not succeeded. Maybe next year I will try in Sleat where there is a lot more oak.

Lure on oak at Eyre

Late April – Insects

May 1, 2021

Micromoths have continued to provide interest though it has turned cold in recent days which is limiting what’s about -not just in terms of micromoths. This one is Philedonides lunana (Heath Twist), not a rare moth but one with very few records locally. I spotted two in the Manish area of Raasay.

Philedonides lunana (Heath Twist)

More interesting was this little female Heringocrania (Eriocrania) unimaculella (White-spot Purple) with a forewing length of just 5 mm found near Kinloch on Skye

Heringocrania (Eriocrania) unimaculella (White-spot Purple)

As ever I am grateful to NIgel Richards for i.d.s.

I have a variety of larvae that I am trying to rear so that their identification can be confirmed. My Bucculatrix nigricomella is now a pupa, so I wait with bated breath for this rather smart little moth to emerge.

I have been checking numerous stands of Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) on Raasay and Skye in the hope of finding lepidopterous leaf mines, but with no luck so far.

Butterflies seen so far this year are Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green-veined White and Green Hairstreak.

Green Hairstreak

I spotted a Common Groundhopper and a Common Green Grasshopper nymph at Fearns on Raasay, the former being something I have seen very rarely hereabouts.

Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata)

I also have a number of bugs that I hope to get help with e.g.:

Bugs from Kinloch

Mid-April

April 19, 2021

Last time I said I would write a separate entry about spiders, but I realise that I have already covered two of the three recent interesting finds. The third may be Philodromus emarginatus which would be an excellent record for the west coast of Scotland. However, it was immature when captured and so I have been rearing it. It has moulted once but is still not mature enough for a definitive i.d.

Philodromus emarginatus maybe

Some shore-work with two grandsons led to two useful fish records, Eelpout (Zoarces viviparus) which is unusual in producing live young, and Shore Rockling (Gaidropsarus mediterraneus). Both, but particularly the latter, are very useful additions to the local marine list.

Whilst on the shore we found a number of small flatworms that are probably Procerodes littoralis, which according to MARLIN: “Unlike similar species….moves like a leech when disturbed, rather than moving smoothly”. I actually thought they were leeches initially, but that didn’t seem likely in a salty pool at the top of the shore.

Procerodes littoralis Probably

Some interesting micromoth larvae have turned up – probable Eupoecilia angustana f. fasciella (Marbled Conch) swept off heather (Calluna vulgaris) and almost definitely Stictea mygindiana (Cowberry Marble) mines and larvae on Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). The former has very few records locally; the latter is new to the vice-county. I am trying to rear adults from both.

This springtail may be Tomocerus sp. and this water cricket is Velia caprai:

Velia caprai is quite common on Skye & Raasay but the other species known in the Highlands, Velia saulii, has no records on NBN for this area. This picture from Bernard Nau’s draft Keys to Aquatic & Semi-aquatic Heteroptera shows how to tell them apart easily enough.

Thanks are due to Nigel Richards, Seth Gibson and Stephen Morean for help with identifications.

Early April

April 8, 2021

This sort of weather is not very conducive to field work.

However, some things are afoot. Through the Skye Naturalists’ Network on Facebook and with the help of Skye Gardening Society, I have had a number of people locating and inspecting Quercus ilex (Evergreen/Holm/Holly Oak) and Pyracantha coccinea in the hope of finding leaf mines caused by moth larvae.

The firethorn leaf miner Phyllonorycter leucographella invaded the UK 30 or so years ago and has spread north rapidly. It is found up to the Highlands but there are still vice-counties where it hasn’t reached or hasn’t been noticed, such as ours.  It makes rather silvery blister mines on the upperside of Pyracantha (Firethorn) leaves and no other species is known to use this foodplant.

The European oak leaf-miner or Zeller’s midget Phyllonorycter messaniella makes blister mines on oak leaves (and also on beech).  Unfortunately, on our native oaks, there are a number of other Phyllonorycter species that can be confusing, but P. messaniella is a specialist species on the evergreen oak, Quercus ilex.  On Q. ilex in Scotland, this is the only Phyllonorycter mine to be found. 

It turns out that both host species are pretty rare on Skye/Raasay and so far no mines have been found.

Gall on gall:

This is Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Sallow/Willow). I think the rosette, which is a common gall locally, is caused by a dipteran of the Rabdophaga strobilina/rosaria agg. However, there is another gall on the leaf midrib, upper surface, which is probably caused by a sawfly – Euura pedunculi or similar. The divisions shown are millimetres.

I have sent away a couple of stoneflies and Seth is kindly looking at a scuttle fly for me using a new key to the genus Triphleba provided by Henry Disney at Cambridge who is “King of Scuttle Flies”. Henry says this is the right genus and sent the key. Even then, quite a few of the outcomes are “possibly the unknown (fe)male of…..” so Good Luck Seth.

Scuttle Fly

I will write a separate entry about spiders.

On the plant side, I have found a large colony of Tussilago farfara (Colt’s-foot) on disturbed ground not very far from home. There really isn’t very much of this on Raasay:

The resin glands on Abies alba (European Silver-fir) are apparent at the moment and contain a rich red resin.